Name: Paul Shelton
Organizational Affiliation: Latin American Association of EthnoArts
How did you get started in ethnodoxology?
While studying music and missions with T.W. Hunt at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I read articles by Paul Neeley and Tom Avery, which started my passion for ethnodoxology. Later, working in Argentina as a music missionary, I found the people wanted Western music, not indigenous, so I had to redirect my emphasis, but my desire to incorporate indigenous music never faded. The Global Consultation on Music and Missions (GCoMM) in Minneapolis (2006) was an answer to those desires. I joined GEN at the conference and met some of the prominent leaders of the network. After this I also attended GCoMM in Singapore (2010) and Chiang Mai (2015). What I heard and learned at various GCoMMs helped me gather helpful illustrations, contacts, and ideas that we used in supporting the formation of the Latin American Association of EthnoArts (ALDEA) in Bogota, Columbia.
What has been one of your favorite moments in ethnodoxology?
I’m a mobilizer, so I love finding people who say “that’s what I’ve been looking for for so long.” Sylvia was an artist in Argentina, and she had gone on a couple of short mission trips as an art teacher. Over time she ended up in Myanmar, then at GCoMM in Thailand (2015). For her, learning that she could use arts for her work was revolutionary. Another key moment for me happened with John Henry, who worked with the Ngöbe tribe in Panama. When visiting him, he introduced me to the man who had played a key role in the creation of the first Christian Ngöbe worship song and showed me where the recording of that song had been done. Going there, feeling the ethnic group and environment, knowing that this wasn’t just any song, but it was truly at home in the culture—that really gave life to the idea of ethnodoxology!
What do you hope will be different in 25 years through ethnodoxology?
The circle will be completed when the Western church is actively creating music that’s personal to each congregation. Each congregation has a personality; music they create should be relevant and grow out of the life of that congregation. It doesn’t need to be global. Especially in Latin America, where worship is largely imported, we want it to be localized and personal. Texas, where I am now, is different from the Georgia church where my mother was from. I want the missionaries going out to be very familiar with the principles of ethnodoxology and allow it to guide how they do missions.